Waikato Journal of Education
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How to Cite

Flanagan, P. (2011). Making sense of children’s sexuality: Understanding sexual development and activity in education contexts. Waikato Journal of Education, 16(3). https://doi.org/10.15663/wje.v16i3.36


Most adults find that responding to sexual activity by children and between children is challenging. This is especially so for teachers in early childhood and primary education contexts. One common view is that children should not be sexual or, if they are, that there is something wrong. These concerns are strengthened by popular adult discourses of sexuality and accompanying ideas of sexual privacy. Among discourses of child development sit ideas of childhood innocence and natural curiosity. However, assumptions of abuse arise when children's sexual curiosity extends beyond what is considered appropriate or 'normal'. This article examines pre-adolescent child sexual development. It scans some of the ideas and practices that shape adults' understandings in the construction of children's sexual identities. These ideas and practices also shape children's knowledges. Adult responses to children's sexual actions often portray children as abused, abusive or deviant. Using a social constructionist lens, this paper offers educators an exploration of a range of understandings and alternative thinking about sexuality in the worlds of children'”yet also critiques ideas of normative behaviour and development. The reader is invited to think about how children can be encouraged to share their subjective meanings and understandings.


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